Together with instant messaging, email is one of the world’s most popular means of communication and a favorite of businesses and marketers everywhere. Over half of the world’s population has an email account. The average office employee receives approximately 126 emails per day. That means a lot of time spent reading, sorting, and replying to emails during a workday. To help you deal with this more effectively, we put together a list of email best practices for a productive workplace.
The death of email… or not
For some years now, IT companies and experts keep announcing an e-pocalypse. With so many more effective alternative solutions out there, email is becoming less used by the day. Gen Z-rs already consider email less important and a bigger waste of time than the generations before them.
Yet, email is still a great tool in business communication. And whether or not it will meet its doom under their reign, remains to be seen. Till then, improving your email productivity is an important cornerstone of your overall productivity at work. Here are some strategies to do it.
1. Schedule email checking into your daily to-do list
According to an email usage survey, people spend up to 5 hours a day checking their emails. Work email is checked for approximately 3 hours during a workday, while personal email takes about 2 hours.
The most effective way to make sure that you don’t spend too much time reading and replying to emails is to follow a strict schedule. Instead of interrupting your work to check your inbox several times a day, set dedicated times just for that.
A good way to achieve that while making sure you don’t miss anything important or take too long to reply, is to divide it into a few sessions. For example, half an hour in the morning, half an hour after lunch, and another half an hour before the end of your workday.
2. Delete and unsubscribe
Employees open 80 percent of their work emails and consider just 59 percent of them to be useful. When it comes to personal emails, the opening rate is 57 percent with just 37 percent truly useful.
Inbox Zero is still just a dream for many of us and all those unopened and uninteresting emails pile up to turn our inbox into a disaster. If your email client shows you have hundreds, even thousands of unread emails, it’s time for a spring cleaning.
Start by unsubscribing from every newsletter that you don’t open at least once a week. Next, you should make it a habit to delete all those emails that you took the time to open and read, but considered to be not useful. Do the same with all of the emails that you don’t need anymore.
3. Personalize your inbox
Use themes and colors to make your inbox appear less dull and uplift your mood. It might not seem like much, but images have a powerful effect on our state of mind. A nice beach photo from your last vacation could decrease your stress levels and increase your happiness even if you don’t realize it.
One of the most effective ways to manage your inbox using colors is by assigning urgency levels:
- Green = reply ASAP
- Yellow = reply within 48hrs
- Red = reply whenever you can
Color schemes can help you sort your emails into categories. It’s much faster and easier to identify emails by color than by reading the subject.
4. Use templates
If you notice that you have to keep repeating your answers and get the same type of inquiries over and over again, you should consider creating some templates. Compose a nice copy that answers the question and simply copy-paste your answer whenever you need it.
Using email templates saves time but it can also seem impersonal and even uninterested. Avoid that by adding short personalized items into your answers. Call people by their name, and dedicate one or two lines to address their specific requests at the end of your template.
5. Respect the 2-minute rule
According to the 2-minute rule, if something takes less than 2 minutes, you should do it immediately. In our context, if an email you open requires less than 2 minutes to reply to, you should do it right away. Marking with colors, moving it to another folder, or even re-reading it later, would take more of your time and energy.
6. Use the subject line properly
When composing emails, make sure that your subject line transmits the essence of your email and its urgency. In marketing, the subject line is considered the most important part of an email. A catchy subject line can make the difference between a sale and an unsubscribe.
When scrolling through your inbox, prioritize emails based on the subject line. Of course, the sender is important too, but the subject line indicates what requires immediate attention and what can wait.
7. Be clear and concise
When replying to emails, it is paramount to use paragraphs properly. There is nothing worse than a huge block of text appearing in front of you when you open an email. Spare your readers the headache and group your ideas into paragraphs. Ideally, a paragraph shouldn’t be longer than 3-4 lines.
Stick to the subject, don’t beat around the bush, and say what needs to be said in the shortest and clearest way possible. This will avoid a long chain of back-and-forth emails, and also make it easier for the other person to reply.
8. Re-read and double-check
Always re-read your emails to check the grammar, orthography, and style, and double-check the file attachments. A poorly written email can make serious damage to your personal and your company’s reputation.
Forgetting to attach a file, especially when you refer to it in your email, can be an oops or a total disaster. Make it a habit to always double-check the attachment before hitting Send.
9. Be positive and personal
Personalized emails increase the open rate, sales, and customer satisfaction, and decrease the unsubscribe rates. Even outside of the marketing realm, most people prefer being addressed by their name and seeing a personal touch in emails from collaborators.
The tone of your email should match the culture and values of your company. Try to think like a customer: what would you expect from a company like yours? That’s exactly what you should deliver.
Last, but not least, even if you go with a formal and serious tone, your emails should always be positive. Negativity alienates people and makes it more likely for them to dislike and avoid you in the future.